Let’s start this review by saying the things that need to be said. For those of you who have been pining for Ryan Adams to return to Whiskeytown-era alt.country, forget it. For those of you yearning for a Ryan Adams to return to Cardinals-era rock & roll, forget it. Ryan Adams has moved on. Deal with it. He’s into pop music now. Yeah, pop music.
His 1989 was an album of Taylor Swift covers. And it wasn’t a parlor trick. It wasn’t tongue-in-cheek. The man is seriously and wholeheartedly into her music and the covers on the album were heartfelt covers. And now we know that 1989 was a practice exercise. A step to prepare him for his own pop album, Prisoner. So it’s on us to come to Prisoner with an open mind and no expectations based on the past personas of Ryan Adams we grew up with.
I’d say he pretty much nailed it on Prisoner. Musically, he’s as sharp as ever. There’s always something interesting going on in the music. His ability to arrange an evolution and build up of sounds in a song is very good at building complex moods. He’s writing songs that sound like radio. They are conversational often almost spoken, and oh so earnest. You can hear sonic callbacks to the 1989 alum throughout. I would not go so far as to say he’s the male version of Taylor Swift, but he’s in that arena of pop rock. And here’s the thing. When a lot of people think of pop music, they think of bubblegum pop music for kids full of sappy saccharine puppy love. Not so on this album. Ryan Adams’ Prisoner is pop music for folks who’ve been around the block a few times and have the scars and sore feet to prove it.
He targets is his demographic right off the bat with the opening track “Do You Still Love Me?” It’s an ambivalent, “checking in” song, a "where are we in our relationship" song. It’s maybe a little sad, but not that sad. It’s a "we need to get some clarity song. “ The title track, “Prisoner,” is a little lighter. It’s got a summer shimmer in the background and feels like a confirmation of love song, “I am a prisoner of your love,” and it’s got a quiet contentment in it. “To Be Without You” is the other focus track. This song has a hint of twang in the guitar work and some 70’s era soft rock sound. It kinda feels like a personal anthem song.
Songs on this episode:
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